My father told me it was a word, a name. One that tied me to everyone who carried it.
But it felt more like a line drawn in the sand.
Me, my father, my mother, and Pear, all standing opposite of everyone else.
To me, Cariño only carried me as far as the next room over, and wherever those people left their footsteps.
I’ve never known my family, not more than a blurry memory of people I believe to be my grandparents. Though, whether it’s the fog of dream or toddler memory, I couldn’t say.
No, the only family I’ve ever known are the Cariños of the island and their friends that traveled with them.
They are my family.
And for them, I would do anything.
I can feel the way the salt burns my skin, in the lingering scrapes and cuts the sand gifts me in my tumbles. I can hear my mother calling me away from deeper waters, and my father shouting for me to push further into them.
Milo and Edgar swim beside me, dodging waves without warning me, laughing at each slap I receive from the ocean.
Pay attention, it warns with each lapse.
Pearl sits on the shore, laughing with Penelope. Both of them hold crabs by their sides and make them kiss. A beach wedding of the crustaceans.
The sun glistens on my skin between each wave, each touch feeling like a kiss and a welcome, not just another beating burden.
It’s blissful, this way. My life as it was.
Pear doesn’t let it last too long, she wakes me up from my dreams.
“If you’re planning on making it to shore without being seen, you better get up. There’s only so many hours of sunrise.”
I grumble and roll over to the other side of our bed. My forehead hits the wall.
“Ugh,” I grunt, rubbing my forehead. “I told you we should’ve put the bed in the middle.”
“Then you’d just roll off.” She laughed. “Besides, we can barely fit anything in here as it is.”
She’s right. Sitting up now and glancing around at our shed, I see how much space we’ve been robbed of.
At home, we had three large rooms, and a bath. One for Pear and me, one for our parents, and one for the kitchen and the living room, where everyone else stayed over.
Now, we’re forced to stay in a four walled hut with a comunal outhouse.
“Come on,”she pressed. “Penelope and Edgar are waiting outside. Milos on his way, too.”
“What? I thought we were going on our own?!”
Pear made no attempt at hiding her smile. “We’ll, Pen was talking about how much she missed the forest, and I told her we were going and that she should come with-”
“And that had to turn into a family reunion?” I sighed.
“It’s fine. But tell Milo that I’m rowing.”
After I’m dressed, we make the trek to “Grey Bay”, the shore reserved for the boats of the people of the island who made it out alive. Muertos, they call us.
They’ve never seen the cruelty in nicknaming us after our families’ fates.
We pile into Papa’s old dingy, Pear and Penelope in each others’ laps. Edgar sitting behind Milo, who’s up front and next to me, fighting me for the oars.
“I never get to row!” He says.
“Cariño boat, Cariño captain,” I say back.
Edgar reaches over and punches Milo in the soldier. I don’t hear from him the rest of the way there.
To be continued